WOMEN’S BASKETBALL Former Husky Dolson still brings energy to the court
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — As if there ever was any doubt, Stefanie Dolson still has the same eclectic personality.
It’s Friday, minutes after practice has concluded for the U.S. Women’s National Team, and Dolson is meeting with the media. She finds herself discussing various topics related directly to basketball, including the intricacies of college offenses and the difficulty of adjusting to the WNBA, before the conversation takes on a lighter tone. She’s asked about her love of tattoos, and whether she’s gotten any new ones recently, or if she’s thought about dying her hair pink or purple again.
“No, it’s healthy now,” she responds with a smile. “Everyone keeps asking me to go back to colors, but … it’s healthy. Guys, you don’t understand. You don’t understand.
“If I had blonde hair, I’d have every color in the world. But it ruins my hair. I know, sorry to disappoint.”
Dolson, the jovial figure of two national championship teams at UConn, knows hair, fashion and, of course, basketball.
Drafted sixth overall in 2014 by the Washington Mystics, Dolson has already played five seasons in the WNBA — the last two with the Chicago Sky following a blockbuster trade that sent superstar Elena Della Donne to the Mystics — and is a two-time all-star. The 6-foot-5 forward is coming off a fairly productive season, in which she averaged 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists across 27 games (25 starts).
“I’m pleased with how I’ve progressed, how I’ve gotten better with different skills,” said Dolson, 26, who was teammates this past year with former UConn forward Gabby Williams. “I’m still working on things, though, because I’m not anywhere near what I think I can be when it comes to the best, best version of me. I’m still working toward that goal of becoming that person and becoming that player.”
Dolson, or “Big Mama Stef,” as she calls herself on Twitter, is an easy person to gravitate to. With her bubbly personality, she’s endeared herself to many teammates and coaches throughout her career. Just ask Jennifer Rizzotti, who is working as an assistant with the national team under South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.
“She’s always one of my favorites,” Rizzotti said Friday. “The energy she brings to the gym every day, she’s a different kind of post than the other guys that are here in terms of her intelligence, her passing, her understanding of the game, and her unselfishness while getting other guys shots. She always makes camp better.
Rizzotti continued: “You’d never know if she had a bad day. I think [UConn head coach] Geno [Auriemma] said that about her once. No matter what’s going on in her life, she understands her role when she steps into the gym. She’s supposed to lift the energy, make her team better, and make this the most important thing of the day. She does that every single time.”
Last Saturday, Dolson returned to Connecticut with the national team to play an exhibition game against Canada. Given a warm ovation by the pro-UConn crowd at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, she came off the bench to grab five rebounds over eight minutes in a 74-68 win.
While she had hoped to make the final 12-player roster for the FIBA World Cup later this month in Tenerife, Spain, Dolson ultimately did not. She was one of several players cut by the team Tuesday.
And so, the focus shifts to the future for Dolson — more specifically, her sixth season in the WNBA. The Sky fired Amber Stocks last month, meaning Dolson will have not only a new head coach, but also a new general manager moving forward. The Sky went 13-21 this year, missing the postseason.
Dolson said she’s particularly interested to see the jump that Williams makes in her second professional season. Williams averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game as a rookie.
“It was definitely a transition time, but there was so many games where she showed exactly what she was capable of,” Dolson said. “That’s the hardest thing to get, is consistency is a rookie.”